How to Get Bugs to Stop Eating Outdoor Plants

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Having an outdoor garden can be a wonderful experience, especially when you get to start the plants from seeds and enjoy them the whole way until harvest time, but if there's one thing that can truly ruin the experience it's an uncontrolled bug problem. From holes in plant leaves to unwanted guests in produce, bugs can ruin any gardener's good day. All gardens have bugs, but it's time to look into pest control options when you need to get bugs to stop eating your outdoor plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass
  • Bowl
  • Salt
  • Beer
  • Pie plate
  • Dish soap
  • 16-oz. spray bottle
  • Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Try Each Step in Order for Best Results

  • Assess the problem. Figure out what the problem is, whether it's holes in your cabbage leaves or slimy critters at the base of your lettuce. Don't just assume that the problem with your plant is bugs. Get outside early in the morning, when bugs are most active, and look for proof.

  • Identify any insects you find in order to discover the best way to get rid of the bugs. Texas A&M University offers a great online resource for identifying pests. A college horticulture department near you may offer similar resources. Follow any recommendations specific to the pests you've found.

  • Start with the least-damaging method and work your way up. Don't go out and buy the strongest pesticide you can and just start spraying. You'll be ingesting your garden bounty, remember, and you definitely do not want that stuff in your system.

  • Remove bugs by hand. This method will work best for larger critters like beetles and worms. Keep a bowl of salty water nearby for drowning, which might sound mean, but hey, it's better than a ruined garden, right?

  • Drink a beer. Actually, it's not you who will be drinking the beer, but the bugs. Leave several shallow containers, think pie pans, of beer in your garden overnight. Some bugs are attracted to the sweetness and will drown happily.

  • Bust out the soap. If you still have bugs after the hand-to-hand combat and the beer battle, fill a squirt bottle with 1 tbsp. of dish soap (go organic, if possible) and water. Shake well and spray the plants early in the morning. Don't forget the underside of the leaves. The bugs won't like the soapy leaves and will look elsewhere for breakfast. Repeat this for a few days and you'll be bug-free.

  • Try Diatomaceous Earth, also known as DE, which you can buy at a local pool supply store, but make sure you tell the retailer your intended purpose, as some DE is toxic to humans. Otherwise, most brands of DE are 100%-organic and basically crushed-up fossils and shells. DE works by scratching up the outer surface of bugs, which will kill them. Although DE won't harm your plants if it touches them, try to avoid any flowers or you'll risk killing helpful bees.

  • Nothing seems to work? Re-evaluate the problem to make sure that the issue is actually insects. Look for an organic, vegetable-safe pesticide as an absolute last resort.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep pets away from gardens with DE applied for good measure.

References

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